SECHELT, B.C. – Sechelt’s visitor centre is re-opening its doors.

For nearly a decade-and-a-half, the visitor centre was under contract with the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society.

But according to a report from the Coast Reporter, the Society opted to end its agreement with the district after 14 years, and the centre has been closed since Dec. 31.

Enter Sunshine Coast Tourism, which is hosting a soft opening on Wednesday, followed by a grand opening on Saturday at the centre, located in the Seaside Centre.

The organization’s executive director Paul Kamon explains how it took the reins.

“There was always a visitor centre, it was under contract with another organization called the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society, and they do a number of different programs on the coast,” Kamon said.

“Just because it wasn’t really their focus, they wanted to hand the contract back to the district. They basically returned the contract back.”

Sunshine Coast Tourism had a vested interest in taking the wheel, Kamon said: “We were a pretty appropriate candidate to at least put a proposal forward, seeing as though we also manage the Gibsons Visitor Centre. We put a proposal in and won the contract, so we’re firing it all back up again.”

According to Kamon, visitor information services as a whole has undergone a pretty radical transformation, due to technology and how people access information.

“The bricks-and-mortar visitors’ centres were developed in a different era. (That’s) not to say that face-to-face service is not needed, that’s absolutely an important part of the mix. But we’re also looking at what other ways that the visitors centre can provide information for people in the most valuable and consistent way,” he added.

And sometimes it’s not a brick-and-mortar visitor centre, Kamon said, but also engaging with digital technology and overall looking at how people are getting information and being in that space, and helping facilitate accurate and up-to-date information.

“We’re working on a regional visitors services plan which we’re going to be working on for the next year, as we take stock of all the good things that we are doing already and recognizing what other things we can be doing better and also looking at how we can improve,” Kamon said.

When it comes to the total number of visitors to the Sunshine Coast each year, Kamon said it’s “really difficult to come up with that number.”

There are a “number of different indicators that we do look at,” he said, including ferry and marina stats, hotel accommodations and room revenue.

“All of these indicators helps paint you a bit of a picture,” Kamon said. “Ferries (are) a perfect one. You can take a look at their numbers and they had the highest ridership last year, that they’ve had in the last 25 years. So just traffic alone, and we all obviously know that’s just not locals travelling, although there is certainly a strong local contingent commuting to Metro Vancouver. The rest of that is obviously visitors.”

Meanwhile, it will be status quo at the new centre.

The visitor information centre will be in the same spot.

“We’re just re-opening it,” Kamon said.

“The idea of moving the actual venue, that’s up to the District of Sechelt because they’re the ones providing the building. We as an organization is contracted to provide the service. So we will go wherever they put us.”

Staffing-wise, the staff that was working under the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society have been offered their jobs back, but under Sunshine Coast Tourism.

Kamon explains: “They were very well liked. All reports that I got were positive. I did speak with them. They sent out their proposal which I reviewed, which I thought was very well written and showed their initiative so, why not? We want to get this thing started quickly so I gave everyone their jobs back. And I’m feeling pretty good about it and my team is feeling good about it.”